Bridal Extravaganza Fever – One Stop Shop Wedding-Planning

June 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

Bridal showers and bachelorette parties aren’t the only things exciting Houston brides before their walk down the aisle. The Bridal Extravaganza is a one stop shop wedding-planning tradition for brides, grooms, families, and their go-to girls. North America’s largest bridal show is held at the George R. Brown Convention Center. This summer’s show features a Kissing Contest, the Billboard Bride competition, Passport to major prizes, Formal fashion shows, a Wedding Wonderland, the Couture Collection, and the Taste of the Bridal Extravaganza food sampling event.

Kissing Contest
Couples vie for prizes by seeing who can lock lips the longest. Last year, couples kissed the day, (and night) away. After a 22-hour lip-lock-a-thon, the last two couples standing agreed to split the prize package and left with a bevy of freebies for their upcoming big day.

Be the Billboard Bride
The show kicks off the search for the next Billboard Bride. One lucky bride will be featured on billboards, magazines and promotional spots representing the Bridal Extravaganza. Thousands sign up to win the title; only one groom will see his future mate along Houston highways. Past billboard brides include: Deborah Duncan, Rosanne Rogers, Shaun Bagwell, Laurette Veres and former Miss Universe, Chelsi Smith.

Passport to Major Prizes
Major prizes include honeymoons to the Riviera Maya and Cypress Bend Resort, golf packages for the guys, $1,000 shopping sprees to Arne’s, and Kohl’s, a free wedding announcement in the Houston Chronicle, and much more. All brides in attendance are eligible.

Formal Fashion Shows
Four fashion shows each day attract Fashionistas to the main stage to view the latest and greatest in gowns and men’s wear. Sponsors include David’s Bridal, Ventura’s Bridal, WARDROBE, the boutique and Men’s Wearhouse.

Wedding Wonderland
Houston’s top event designers transform the GRB Convention Center into a wonderland of ideas. Linen displays, floral arrangements, table settings and chair covers take ideas from look-book to reality.

Couture Collection
The Couture Collection Catwalk draws those searching for the perfect custom gown. Models hit the runway donning gowns from bridal salons like Winnie Couture and Princess Bridal. From drop-waist gowns to sexy sheaths, the latest trends wow the crowd. Limited VIP seating is available.

Taste of the Bridal Extravaganza
Chefs from around the city provide samples of bridal delicacies. And, there is no need to drive all over town for cake samplings – have your fill at this two-day event.
With princess gowns and place settings galore, the Bridal Extravaganza delivers the best in all things bridal. Join Houston brides-to-be at the George R. Brown for this much loved, much-anticipated, can’t-miss event.

photos by Laurie Perez

The Right Shot

June 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

Where will you celebrate Thanksgiving? To most, the answer is simple: With my family. To 5854 Houston children awaiting foster homes, the question is not so simple.

Recently, the Oscar-nominated movie “The Blind Side” brought national attention to foster care families. From an impoverished upbringing to adoption into a middle class family and subsequent NFL career, Michael Oher discovers his potential as a student and a football player with the help of his newfound family, tutors and coaches.

A capacity crowd joined supporters of the Arrow Child and Family Ministries as they hosted the family who inspired this blockbuster movie. Emcee Deborah Duncan introduced adoptive parent Leigh Anne Tuohy and her daughter Collins, and the movie’s true inspiration, Michael Oher. Leigh Anne’s southern accent made everyone feel at home. Her message was simple: There is value in those deemed valueless. “He had a much greater impact on our lives than we did on his life,” she says.

Arrow Child and Family Ministries was founded to bring out the value in foster kids and strengthen foster families. Founder Mark Tennant believes the crisis involving local children is just as devastating as the Haitian earthquake crisis, without the media attention. “There are more than 27,000 foster children in Texas and over 463,000 in the U.S. foster care system, with 123,000 of them waiting for adoption.”

Thousands of children are rescued from abuse and placed in the foster care system every year. Without quality role models, their cycle of abuse is likely to continue. The Tuohy’s became Michael Oher’s support system and broke his cycle of neglect.

You can impact a child’s life. Currently, the Arrow is reaching out to churches, individuals and corporations in response to the foster care crisis from its national headquarters in Spring, Texas. They provide individual homes for children across Texas and beyond.

Find out how you can help at

photo courtesy Arrow Ministries/Terry Halsey

June Is Bustin’ Out All Over…

June 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs

… even after Ike and our coldest winter in memory, we have beautiful flowering trees and multitudinous flowers. Houston really is a beautiful city, and I am very proud to live here.

BETTY WHITE has nothing on Former First Lady, BARBARA BUSH. WHITE, at 88, has had a 60-year successful show biz career and in recent weeks guest-hosted Saturday Night Live. But, consider that MRS. BUSH has been in the spotlight as often, if not more so, than BETTY. MRS. BUSH had ‘em rolling in the aisles, 800 strong, at the American Heart Association Go Red luncheon. On a more serious note when asked, “What is your advice for raising children?” MRS. BUSH replied, “There are three things:
1) Set an example!
2) Unconditional love
3) “May your children just be happy!”

If you know any woman currently undergoing treatment for any type of cancer, let her know that there is a cleaning service that provides FREE housecleaning one time per month for four months while she is in treatment. All she has to do is sign up and have her doctor fax a note confirming the treatment. Cleaning for a Reason will have a participating maid service in her zip code area arrange for the service. Their website is: This organization serves the entire USA and currently has 547 partners to help these women. Pass this information along.

Something in the water? JOE JAMAIL donated $1 million to Rice University Baker Institute in honor of his friend, JAMES BAKER, III; and energy mogul and philanthropist GEORGE MITCHELL donated $1.5 Million in the name of his late wife, CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL, to UT Health, formerly known as the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Wow!

“Mission Incredible,” benefiting The Mission of Yahweh, a homeless shelter for women and children, pulled off a totally fun event bringing out 250 people on a Sunday night. A great event!!


MOST ENTERTAINING:  The Tapestry Gala benefiting Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, which brings people of diverse faith traditions together for dialogue, collaboration and service. The evening was interwoven with beautiful music from vocalists KENNETH GAYLE and many others.

MOST INSPIRATIONAL EVENT: Let’s Hear it for the BOYS, the WALIPP Preparatory Academy Spring Luncheon. WALIPP (The WILLIAM A. LAWSON Institute for Peace and Prosperity) was founded in 1996 to initiate and implement programs designed to revitalize the inner city.

As head of Houston Endowment, Honoree JACK BLANTON recalled how exciting it was to give away Mr. JESSE JONES’ money.

MOST INTERESTING HONOREE: Holocaust Museum Houston’s “On Our Watch” Award dinner honored JOHN PENDERGAST, who has spent most of his adult life working to end genocide in the world. Working with actors like GEORGE CLOONEY and DON CHEADLE, he has called for the world to end the horrors of genocide in places like Darfur and the Congo.

BEST INVITATION DESIGN AWARDS:  Funk Shui, benefiting the Bayou Preservation Association on October 7. So clever!

September 24 – for The Museum of Printing History Gala, featuring remarks from award-winning New York Times journalist, RALPH BLUMENTHAL, and honoring DR. MAVIS KELSEY for his contributions to the Houston community.

October 15 – Houston Humane Society Gala“ Fashonistas and Furry Friends” – 713.626.0570

October 28 – Communities in Schools Houston Gala – 713.654.1515

November 11 – Lunch with COKIE ROBERTS, The Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command – 832.201.8026

November 13 – “Swinging on a Star” Trees of Hope Gala – 713.942.9733

Bravo Television is looking for a cast of characters for a possible Houston Housewives television series. Could I ever cast that show!

Rave Reviews: KELSEY GRAMMER, a very favorite actor of mine since watching him in his reruns late night on Frazer, is wowing audiences in La Cage Aux Follies, the Musical in NYC. After suffering a near fatal heart attack, GRAMMER is on a crusade to warn people of the dangers of eating salt. He said there was a time when he would take a cube of butter and sprinkle salt on it. Now he’s urging everyone to give up salt and save their heart!!

Hooray for TILMAN and PAIGE FERTITTA for surprising DAVE WARD on his birthday. They picked up DAVE and wife, LAURA, and flew them in their helicopter to the San Luis in Galveston for dinner.

Hooray for DAVE WARD, who surprised wife, LAURA, with an early birthday present: A new Bentley. Now, that’s a serious surprise!


Did you know that the oldest person in the world is a Texan? Her name is EUNICE C. SANBORN and she lives in Jacksonville, Texas. Her secret? “I love everything about my life. I like everything about it.” Does that tell us anything about the Power of Positive Thinking AND The Power of Love? Maybe we should watch the salt.

And, from Gautama Buddha, “Teach this triple truth to all. A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

Have you done something for someone today?

photo courtesy Warner Roberts

South Padre Island… a Vacation for Mature Adults

If you haven’t been to South Padre Island since Spring Break 1987, it’s time to see what you’ve been missing. Really, there’s no excuse not to spend a long weekend at this Texas island gem, especially when Southwest Airlines offers several flights a day into Harlingen, and Continental offers a few into Brownsville.
If you’re having bad flashbacks to the keg-dive you did when you went for Spring Break 1987, while the boom box (Hey Mom, what’s a boom box?) was turned on full-stop to the Beastie Boys, “You’ve Gotta Fight for your Right To Party,” and you ended up:
1. Getting sand in your bathing suit that you carried with you all the way to Matamoros that night, because you actually…crossed the border in your bathing suit. And then lost your driver’s license in the process of buying the Chicklet gum from the little kid on the bridge. And then had to beg the Border Crossing Guard to let you back into the U.S. without your driver’s license. (No Sir, I swear I’m a U.S. citizen. Look at how young and drunk I am.) And the U.S. border guard looked at you, pityingly, and waved you through the TURN-STILE. Yes, we used to cross the border through a turn-stile. It was awesome.
2. Having the cops write you a ticket for a Minor in Possession (No Officer – this is NOT my wine cooler. I only drink Seagram’s Very Berry-licious and this is clearly a Bartles and Jaymes.)
3. Waiting in line an hour at the drive-thru of Whataburger to find out they were out of fries. Who runs out of fries?
4. Wondering why your school let out a week earlier for Spring Break than all the rest of the schools – what kind of torture is this? Why did your school have to “suck so badly?”
5. Buying a t-shirt that read: ‘Official Muff Diver.’

If you think South Padre Island is still only for Spring Breakers. Not to fear, the Girls Gone Wild truck has left the building.

South Padre has undergone a massive transformation, while at the same time retaining its Tex-Mex character and laid-back island charm.

You can still sit on the bay on a lazy Friday night, watching the fireworks and drinking ice cold margaritas at mainstays such as Louie’s Backyard, Wahoo Saloon, or Tequila Sunset.

Or you can go upscale with a plate of Oysters Rockefeller at Scampi’s Restaurant. I recommend a table with a view of the bay, and going just in time for the sunset – they ring a bell as the sun disappears into the water. This is the type of fiery Texas sunset rivaling any on the cover of Conde Nast Traveler. Ask for Leti to be your server, and she’ll make sure you get your homemade chips and salsa before they run out.

Upstairs on the deck, enjoy the live lounge singing of a true South Padre island entertainer, Mr. Larry Battle.

For those of you interested in health food and fresh squeezed juices, you can’t beat Naturally’s for breakfast or lunch. Or, just over the bridge, in Port Isabel, Manuel’s serves the best breakfast burritos in town – and the best cheese enchiladas at lunch. (This is down-home, eat-it-like-it’s-going-out-of-style, Tex-Mex at its finest.)

For lunch with the locals and a view of the rolling waves and sand dunes, try the fried shrimp basket at the Palm’s Restaurant.

And, if you’re concerned about where to stay – don’t be.

Houston’s very own Randall Davis, a visionary developer, has graced the island with the newly constructed Sapphire South Padre – the hottest, most elegant condominium high-rise property to hit the island in years. Located just over the island bridge, between the Sheraton Hotel and Schlitterbahn water park, the Sapphire manages to bring that missing element to South Padre Island – think Miami Beach hits Texas, with a stunning 300 foot long swimming pool, ocean and bay views from every gorgeous unit, a 24 hour concierge, and a gym and full service spa to rival anything in downtown Houston. I don’t know how Randall manages to make the building so magnificent – it has to be seen to be believed. The Sapphire takes South Padre Island to another level – and why not? The best beach in Texas isn’t just for Spring Breakers anymore. …

photo courtesy Jo Barrett

The Attic

This is a good time to go through junk in my attic, because it’s not too hot. During a Texas summer, attics are fit only for empty suitcases, unwanted picture frames and Christmas ornaments. Speaking of the latter, have you noticed that during the summer someone goes into your attic and tangles up your Christmas tree lights? Happens every year.

Here is my own attic collection of empty suitcases, a forgotten plastic bag of something, a dusty box containing old and yellowed newspapers. Now why do I have this box? Oh, yes. It belongs to one of my offspring. As a child, he collected newspapers reporting important events – like a Wednesday or changing of the seasons. Now he’s gone and these newspapers aren’t. Next to it is a trunk from summer camp. Eight males in my family have attended Camp La Junta and we are now into the third generation at Camp Waldemar. I dare not open this trunk. It may contain a counselor from Summers past.

There’s a lot of this dusty stuff in my house and perhaps yours, too. But it’s not ours. These leftovers belong to our children who grow up and leave, but leave behind everything they don’t want or don’t have room for in their new digs. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same — leave behind everything we didn’t need instead of renting a mini-warehouse? At no cost? Then, whenever we need something, just nip over to our folks’ house and pick it up, and return anything we no longer want.

We all know the drill in our current society: kids grow up in their parents’ house gradually collecting furniture, clothes, books and all sorts of electronic gear. Then they leave for college, even if the campus is across the street, taking with them the bare essentials such as a change of clothes and all their electronic gear.

After college, children used to get their own apartment and a job. Since today’s college graduates can’t get a job, they move back in with their parents. But eventually, the kids do leave, usually after the parents have changed the locks. But the offspring don’t take everything with them. Here, for example, is a desk and a chair, nice antiques, I think. They belong to my daughter who used them for years. Now she has her own place, but absolutely refuses to take this desk and chair because “they don’t make the right statement” in her new abode. I didn’t ask her to debate, just take.

This large plastic bag is full of T-shirts. In earlier days, I traveled the globe searching for the perfect martini and cigar. Each time I would return from Hong Kong or Moscow or Marfa, I would bring all my children T-shirts saying “Eat More Poodle” or “Death to Capitalist Scum!”

The other children duly wore them out and then they disappeared – the shirts, not the children. Except for one son who won’t take his clothes collection and won’t let me give it to the shirtless Enron employees. Many is the time, when he would return home on a visit, I would beg him, “Take that big plastic bag of T-shirts.” He wouldn’t. Sorry, Skilling.

If your own children have left home and you have an empty nest, maybe it’s not so empty after all. Look in their rooms. Do they still have that “Seniors Rule!” banner on the wall, next to the giant poster of Che Guevara? Is there still a Playboy under the mattress and beer cans under the bed? Does the bookcase still contain old college textbooks that couldn’t be re-sold because the professors had updated their books and made the next class buy their own? A paperweight made in the third grade that is supposed to be a horse but looks like a camel? Check in the closet, too. Clothes are hanging there which were first worn when Gerald Ford could walk and chew gum. Shoes no doubt clutter the closet floor with mud on them from the Jog For Jesus church rally to raise money for the new moat to keep out Muslims.

In my garage, close by the car driver’s door, is yet another desk, this one belonging to yet another son. I think about him every time I squeeze into my car through that narrow gap. I suppose I should be grateful he took his car with him. Garages are great places to store stuff your kids have so generously left for your use, such as bent bikes, rusty roller skates and sleighs that had to be purchased for the one and only snowfall of the winter.

You could get rid of all your kids’ backpacks, high school megaphones, letter sweaters and records/tapes/CDs (depending how long they’ve been gone), toss the stolen street signs and acne cream, but they would want them the next day. The phone rings, “Hi, it’s me. I’m coming home to get my old megaphone and letter jacket for our high school reunion.” Pitifully long pause. “You still have them, don’t you? Dad? Mom?”

On the other hand, you can be proactive. Simply call your heir and announce, “I’m cleaning out your room. Need the space for my newest job since I got laid off at the muffler repair shop. I’m opening a tanning salon and pit bull recycling center.” Or, you could say, “The Health Department was over here yesterday with a final notice.” Maybe just: “The new renters insist.” Or: “You know how you always said you wanted another sister?”

Looking back, when I would return to my folks’ home for a visit and a loan, I recall that on each trip I would notice fewer possessions in my old room. What clearly happened was, when I backed out the driveway to depart, my father would say to my mother, “Is he gone yet? Good. Toss out another unused college text book — but not the Playboys.”

Ashby gathers dust at

Illustraton by Robin Kachantones

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